The two best teams in baseball will meet in the World Series, and oddly enough each is similar to the other.
Both have dynamite, strike-at-any-moment lineups loaded with former MVPs and future Hall-of-Famers. Both have lefty aces that were on the Cleveland Indians only a season ago. Both have inconsistent fireballers who, if on their game, are unhittable.
Both have two of the most established starting pitchers in baseball that look at the playoffs as time to step up their respective games and dominate. Both have bullpens that are somewhat shaky and both have closers with the highest number of playoff saves in baseball history.
That is exactly why the pitching matchups for each team will determine who is the 2009 World Series Champion. So here is a look at the pitching matchups for the World Series.
C.C. Sabathia vs. Cliff Lee
Sabathia can be the most dominant pitcher in baseball whether he throws 100 pitches or 140 pitches. He will be pitching on the biggest stage of his career and has so far shown that he can handle the pressure.
He won the ALCS MVP and has shown he can start on 3 days rest. He will be pitching to a primarily lefty hitting lineup in the Phillies and Ryan Howard should have fits trying to hit his offspeed pitches.
With all those accolades, the Yankees would seem to have the first game in the bag. However, Cliff Lee is the one lefty ace that can counter Sabathia's skill level and keep the Yankee hitters off balance.
Still one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, Lee has proven that he can pitch in both the American and National League and has faced the Yankees many times before.
Furthermore, bottom of the lineup hitters like Robinson Cano, Hideki Matsui, and Nick Swisher will probably have more than a handful of trouble against Lee this series.
Outside of Howard, the Phillies lefties can hit left-handed pitchers on a consistent basis. With potent lineups on both sides, the team that gets ahead early is likely to give their starter a win (as long as the bullpen doesn't blow it).
A.J. Burnett vs. Pedro Martinez
Burnett is the most inconsistent pitcher on the Yankees staff. He also has a the best pure "stuff" that can rival any pitcher in baseball.
Burnett can throw a shutout, or allow six runs as he did in his last start. To win Game Two and possibly Game Five for the Yankees, Burnett will need to get ahead in the count so he can use his breaking ball early and often.
If he begins walking batters and is forced to throw fastballs late in counts, you can expect the Phillies lefties to tee off on the right-hander.
Pedro is a complete wild card for the Phillies. By inserting him into the No. 2 spot rather than Hamels, the Phillies are banking on him regaining some of that magic he had when he was with Boston.
Even if the magic is old and stale they are hoping for at least some to be left. For Pedro the key will be pitch count.
If the Yankees can foul off pitches early and be patient throughout the first few innings, Pedro's fragile arm will tire quickly. With a bullpen that will likely be used plenty during the Series, the Phils need to hope Pedro can at least get them past the 6th inning.
This is undoubtedly the most intrigueing matchup and it will probably come down to which starting pitcher can throw the least balls during the first three innings.
Cole Hamels vs. Andy Pettitte
Hamels, this year, has been the equivalent to Burnett. His ace "stuff" is still there, but sometimes just doesn't show up. Pitching in Yankee Stadium in Game Two would have probably helped his cause, considering the lefty-friendly confines of the Bronx, but the home crowd will give some of the balance his way. Facing a pitcher rather than a designated hitter will also help.
More importantly, Hamels will have the advantage of pitching with a lot of rest under his belt.
The more rest he receives the better, if last year's championship was any indication. With more than a week's rest to start Game One last season, Hamels came out dealing and pitched his way to a win.
If he can come close to replicating his seven-inning performance, the Yankees will have to rely heavily on Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to pick up the slack from the right side of the plate.
If A-Rod and Teixeira can do just that, Andy Pettite will surely be pleased.
Pettitte has proven time and time again that he owns the playoffs. Not only that, but this year he comes in as healthy as he has been in his 30's. Used to pitching that second game, Pettitte will have to change his routine somewhat, but should quickly get into a groove in Veterans Stadium.
If Pettitte can keep his pitches inside and expand the plate like he did against the Angels, this will be a very short series. The Phils can tee-off on power pitchers, whether lefty or righty. What Pettitte brings to the table is the ability to throw offspeed and keep hitters off balance.
Whether he can keep Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins off the basepaths is what will determine Pettitte's outcome.
Chad Gaudin vs. Joe Blanton
These two gentlemen may have the biggest impact in the series.
Both now the long men for their teams in the bullpen, Gaudin and Blanton could start for their teams in a big-time Game Four or Five. Both have fastballs that top out around 92. Blanton has the better arm and can go more innings but Gaudin has the better out pitch.
No matter what, however, if I told you at the season's beginning that these two pitchers might determine the World Series, you probably would have suggested seeing a doctor.
The Yankees Bullpen
The Yankees bullpen starts and ends with Mariano Rivera.
He is clearly the one pitcher anyone would want on the mound for one inning of baseball. However, the Yankees will need more from their bullpen than Mariano to win this series.
Beginning the playoffs, the Yankees were supposed to have an uncomparable bullpen. But looking back at the ALCS says otherwise. Manager Joe Girardi lost faith in his pen and went to Rivera earlier than usual.
Girardi will need to rely on the rest of his bullpen and his pen will have to prove that they can be relied upon.
Phil Hughes must regain his confidence as the eighth inning bridge to Rivera, while Joba must trust his fastball to blow hitters away rather than trying to nibble at corners.
The Yankees best bullpen pitcher besides Rivera so far has been David Robertson. He will need to be trusted to get outs late in innings and not be pulled after one out as he has been before.
With such a lefty-laden lineup, the Phillies should see a lot of Phil Coke and minimal amounts of Damaso Marte, who when warming up, gives Yankees fans automatic heartburn (although it seems Girardi may have taken a liking to him).
Most importantly, Brian Bruney and Alfredo Aceves should be used only in matchups that favor their particular skill set.
Bruney with his fastball, and Aceves with his offspeed pitches, should be used only when truly needed.
The Yankees bullpen will likely be the true determinant of whether they can close the series.
The Phillies Bullpen
The Phillies bullpen seemed to be in complete turmoil when the playoffs began.
Little did anyone know that they would have a complete turnaround so quickly. Brad Lidge now looks like his former self and manager Charlie Manuel looks like a genius for keeping him as the closer.
Manuel will have to manage his bullpen at least as well as the Angels did to keep his team in the game in the later innings.
Oddly enough, the Phillies bullpen is very similar to the Angels bullpen.
In his career Brad Lidge has been just as good, if not better than Brian Fuentes, and each has similar deliveries from opposite sides of the mound. Ryan Madson has the same fireballer type mentaility as Angels hurler Kevin Jepsen, while J.C. Romero is the first lefty out of the pen, like Darren Oliver.
Scott Eyre will likely be playing the role of Jason Bulger, trying to keep the Yankees off the basepaths with his ability to locate pitches in the seventh and eighth innings.
The most important pitcher for the Phillies, however, could be J.A. Happ. With Hamels being inconsistent, Pedro getting older, and possinly a long series ahead, Happ will have to provide some much needed innings to a Phillies bullpen that might be heavily relied on after Game One.
Despite the major power hitters for each team, the World Series Championship will be determined, one way or another, by the pitching. With so many questions for each team, a six or seven game series is all but guaranteed.
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